March 4, 2011

72 Million Year Old Dinosaur Bonanza Found in Mexico

72 million years ago, the desert of Coahuila looked very different. For a start, it wasn't a desert. This was the late Cretaceous period when, to the north, a vast, inland sea covered most of the south and western states of the present day USA. Coahuila sat at the southern plains of this sea. It was a huge, swampy estuary, covered in lush vegetation. It was here that the dinosaurs came to drink and feed; and some left traces that are only now coming to light.

Tyrannosaurus Rex
Tyrannosaurus Rex

This was the hunting ground of Tyrannosaurus Rex, but that infamous species of dinosaur certainly wasn't alone out there. The remains of Coahuilaceratops Magnacuerna, a dinosaur named after the state, were discovered last year here. That was just the beginning, for it seems that this area is a treasure trove of pre-historic remains, on a par to those in Wyoming or Utah. Moreover, paleontologists have only just begun to scratch the surface.

Earlier this week, it was revealed that 207 dinosaur footprints have been found so far in Coahuila. These lay alongside fragments of vertebrae and long bones, belonging to a selection of creatures, who died there 72 million years ago. They are so recently uncovered, that they haven't yet been fully identified and classified. However, they are likely to include the Hadrosauridae, Ornitomimidae and Tyrannosaurus families.

Hadrosauridae
Hadrosauridae


Ornitomimidae
Ornitomimidae

The discoveries have been made over three sites, covering 5,000 sq. meters (53,750 sq. feet, in Coahuila. The largest was within the city of General Cepeda. Paleontologists have sealed off an area of Las Aguilas, which is where the footprints were found. It will eventually be open to the public, once the experts have done their jobs.

INAH-Coahuila Center paleontologist Felisa Aguilar explained, "Those places are still hidden under vegetation and won’t be opened to the public until they are registered so that their future conservation can be guaranteed."

Other remains, in the same area, have been dated to the Pleistocene, which makes them a mere 2.5 million years to 10,000 years old.

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